To Elizabeth Blair Lee
New York, Marsh 1st, 1857
I was very glad to get your letter and fully appreciate all your feeling about your good friends. You had the attachment to them that I have for your Father and Mother. We almost all find out during our lives that our best friends are not always those whose birth brings them nearest and there is no supplying their places when we lose them. I will not say any more about that- my experience of life has been a hardening one and I keep my mind from it as far as possible and I know you always regret to hear me say what I cannot help thinking, or rather, remembering,
I have had the real pleasure to have Father with me quite often this winter. At first he was formal and restrained, but he comes and goes now with a cheerful informality that brings a choking sensation in my throat. I have noticed, as no one could fail to do, the alteration in his person, and the complaint he contracted in Missouri continues to wear upon him. But through myself I know Father and physical remedies alone will not reach him. He is wounded & irritated in his political associations. I wish with all my heart he had never returned to Missouri after his election to the House- then was the time to abandon them. Staying in Washington keeps alive all those worrying ideas. Here in the North he is treated with the deference and respect due to his age & past services- in Washington any successful man with a place & a vote outranks him- Gwin, Broderick, Herbery, Keitt anything in place.
Mr. Frémont has earned my positive gratitude- it is the right word- by his deference to Father and his efforts to please him. One might think Mr. Frémont had tried to defeat Father so much does he do to make him feel everything on the old footing. Mr. Frémont is at work on his book & Father was greatly interested in the plates &c- and pleased with the deference to his judgment in various matters connected with the publication. Although he is as he ought to be in my house a most honored and welcome and contented guest, and you know what a relief it is to me.
Charley has taken a great affection for Father- following him about- taking his hand & talking nonsense to him & it pleases Father. He likes too Charley’s intelligence & good progress. Mrs. Seiler has him for a daily lesson but I prepare it & he goes on famously. Father laughed at Charley’s geographical definitions of the States. I had told him things in my fashion- rather depreciatory of slave states which eh repeated innocently to Father who was very much amused.
Lily, of course, is doing well- her handwriting is getting good & she writes ten good sized sheets of dictation with only as many errors- omissions of words counting. Nina is not well. She is quite dyspeptic (I don’t even know how to spell the word) and Dr. Van Buren says nothing will really help her except some weeks of active country life, walking, riding, & simple hours & living. I have not taken her to more than half a dozen balls for I found she danced herself ill & the only way to prevent it was not to let her dance at all. She studies but without interest, has no appetite & although we certainly live regularly & simply I am not contented with the state of things for her, Nina has one of those inert natures that yield to depression without one struggle. If she had some motive to animate her I know she would get quite well. I think our life too serious for her disposition. If the right person were to appear I would be glad to see her get in love, it is the natural state of mind for her age & would be a stimulant not disagreeable to take but it all lies in whether the “right person” is right or not. As yet Nina has no turn that way and it is as well with her delicate constitution that it is so. We go to Staten Island in May but unless she is much improved soon I will ask for an exchange & while I look after Betty in the Easter holidays I will beg you to let Nina breathe the pine air at Silver Spring. Susy is to be here soon and I look to that as an amusement for I think Nina is only half dyspeptic & the other half ennuyée. You know some children play alone & amuse themselves with any odds & ends & are happy & others must be walked about & given new toys constantly & even then they fret- &Nina needs new toys. Do write to me soon. Give my best love to all and tell your Father all the faithful stop here on their way to take their seats in the Senate. The Dixons, Doolittles (contrast between those two women) & our good friend Preston King who is I believe truly friendly to Mr. Frémont. Yours afftcy,